Fighting on All Fronts:

Assembly GOP Leading the Way on Combatting Opioid Abuse

April 11, 2018

By: Representative Ron Tusler

Too many people have been affected by the opioid epidemic sweeping the nation. In Wisconsin, opioid-related overdose deaths tripled from 2003 to 2014 and accounted for 45% of drug overdose deaths in 2013. Calumet County District Attorney Nathan Haberman has said, “This crisis continues to affect all counties throughout Wisconsin, including Calumet County. The issues are real, they affect us all.  But the issues are not solved through accountability in the criminal justice system alone.” DA Haberman is correct. And there has been great progress addressing the epidemic.

In 2013, my colleagues began the Heroin, Opioid Prevention and Education (H.O.P.E.) Agenda. On April 9, 2018, Governor Walker signed two more H.O.P.E. Agenda bills into law bringing the total to thirty. Thirty bills to combat the opioid epidemic!

Preventing abuse is the first prong in a long-term solution. The legislature has funded four more positions at the Department of Justice to fight drug trafficking and given oversight power to the Department of Health Services to prevent “pill mills” from developing across the state.

Other concrete steps include requiring identification when picking up schedule II or III opiate prescriptions, placing codeine cough syrups behind the counter, and promoting prescription takeback programs. These measures will decrease the likelihood these medicines will become a gateway for abuse.

A second goal of the H.O.P.E. Agenda has been helping those in immediate danger. In 2013 the legislature empowered first responders and other medical professionals to save lives by encouraging training for and providing protections when administering an opioid antagonist, such as Naloxone Narcan, which counters the effects of an opiate overdose. Additionally, as our youth have increasingly become victims of this epidemic, the legislature allowed trained teachers, professors, and residence hall directors to administer opioid antagonists.

Further, studies have found that 88% of drug users surveyed said that they would be willing to summon emergency personnel if there was a Good Samaritan law. In 2017, Wisconsin joined 37 other states and D.C. by enacting a Good Samaritan law. These, among other measures, will save victims’ lives.

Finally, we have made headway combatting addiction getting victims’ lives back on track. The legislature has encouraged regional programs to address addiction in underserved areas, streamlined regulations to create greater access to treatment, and promoted the creation of recovery schools, an alternative for high school-aged students that have struggled with addiction where they work on recovery and their high school diploma. On the criminal justice front, Treatment Alternatives and Diversion (TAD) programs have seen increased funding every legislative session since 2013.

April 22-29, 2018 is “Dose of Reality Week” in Wisconsin. The Brillion Police Department and Calumet County Sheriff’s office are permanent drug takeback locations. On April 28, the Kimberly Village Hall will host a takeback event from 11am - 2pm. If you have old or unused prescriptions, I encourage you to take part in these events. I will continue to work with my legislative colleagues and together we can help bring an end to this terrible epidemic.